21 October 2009

For the poor, community colleges are crucial

A news release Oct. 20 from the Pew Charitable Trusts highlighted a report that shows the importance of community colleges in a job market that demands lifelong learning. From the release:
"Earning a community college degree boosts earnings by an average of $7,900 annually, an increase of 29 percent over those with only a high school diploma.
For low-income, high-achieving high school students in particular, community colleges serve as a springboard to further postsecondary education; more than half eventually transfer to four-year programs, and three-quarters of those who transfer earn a bachelor’s degree."
That just underscores our belief here at YorkCounts on the role that HACC can play in helping students from low-income families break out of poverty, and in making sure York County has a well-trained workforce.

And we know HACC takes that role seriously. Over the summer, I attended a workshop at HACC where officials from various organizations spent a morning basically brainstorming ways to improve the college-readiness of high school students in York. From that session, Lise Levin, community development director at HACC's York campus, has started a list of things HACC wants to try. The ideas range from in-service days at HACC for teachers to class-sampling opportunities for high school students.

What ideas do you have for helping city students be more prepared for college?

- Dan Fink

20 October 2009

Judge Uhler talks truancy on WITF

York County Judge John Uhler talks about truancy and the toll it takes on our community on WITF-FM's "Radio Smart Talk" this morning. His truancy work will be part of an upcoming series of town halls planned by YorkCounts. The first town hall is 6:30 p.m. Nov. 9 in Dover. Here's the program summary from witf.org:

"More than one million students drop out of school each year in the U.S. Statistics indicate that a college graduate will earn hundreds of thousands of dollars more in their lifetime than a high school drop out.

As these figures suggest, education is one of the keys to earning a sustainable living that will provide for a family.

So why do so many still leave school or not see education as important to their
futures? How do keep these kids in school and prepare them for the workforce after they've graduated?"

- Dan Fink

09 October 2009

Sprawl is bad

I've been at two very different events recently. One was a gathering of grassroots organizations and community activists, representing poor communities with high minority populations. The other was a gathering of municipal decision makers, representing the conservative, tradition-bound folks of Lancaster County.

Both groups heard the same message: Sprawl is bad.

Sprawl creates unsustainable, environmentally wasteful development. It adds to the burden on government by demanding wave after wave of government support for new sewer and water infrastructure and new roads, more fire and police resources and more schools. It forces people to work farther and farther away from their homes. And it segregates middle- and upper-income residents from lower-income residents.

The thousands of suburbs that have popped up across the country since the 1950s were built with government-subsidized highways, cheap gas and consumers with money to spend on their houses. Guess what: Governments are out of money, gas isn't cheap and consumers don't have money, if they even have a house.

Which is why Christopher Leinberger says "Sprawl is the root cause of the financial crisis."

Fixing the economy, for the long term, means ending this perpetual push to the 'burbs. It means less money for highways, more for mass transit. It means investing in cities, older first-ring suburbs and other walkable communities. It means building new developments close to existing communities and not in some out-of-the-way cornfield. It means having municipalities incentivize high-density and mixed-housing requirements for new communities, and it means builders and developers figuring out how to do that and still make money.

In other places, community leaders are learning the lesson that sprawl is bad. The same thinking will help York County, too.

- Dan Fink